Joseph Grenny: The Media as an Accomplice in School Shootings

I’m reposting this from the Crucial Skills Web site (scroll half way down). It’s written by Joseph Grenny.

Monday I watched in horror with most of America as the story of the Chardon High School shooting unfolded. But my horror was twofold. The first misery came as I heard the names and numbers of victims and thought about the pain they and their families will endure for the rest of their lives. The second dose came as I held my breath—hoping and praying the media wouldn’t amplify the violence.

But they did.

They did exactly what they needed to do to influence the next perpetrator to lock and load.

1. They named the shooter.
2. They described his characteristics.
3. They detailed the crime.
4. They numbered the victims.
5. They ranked him against other “successful” attackers.

School shootings are a contagion. And the media are consistent accomplices in most every one of them.

There’s really no useful debate on the point. The consensus of social scientists since David Phillips’ groundbreaking work in 1974 is that highly publicized stories of deviant and dangerous behavior influence copycat incidents. Phillips’ and scores of subsequent studies showed, for example, that suicide rates spike in the week after an inappropriately publicized celebrity suicide. Contrast this trend with no increase in suicides in the week following a media strike that unintentionally suppresses such coverage.

The same is true of school massacres. On Groundhog Day, February 2, 1996 a 14-year-old boy walked into his Moses Lake, Washington, Junior High School algebra class and started shooting. He killed his teacher, two classmates, and severely wounded another student. The media obsessed over the color of his clothes, his insidious planning, and the inventory of his arsenal. In addition, they practically offered a how-to guide for concealing and deploying weapons in a coat. But what got the most attention was the fact that after shooting his teacher, he delivered a line from the Stephen King novel Rage with charismatic panache. Suddenly, the invisible adolescent was a cultural icon. Within a week, another shooting occurred that clearly echoed that of February 2. Then another on February 19. Another on March 11. And yet another on March 13. More than one of the apparent copycats also cited King’s novel as a creative resource in their crimes.

Of course, when the Rage pattern became clear, the media scurried to get King’s reaction. King could have defended his right to free speech and used the “guns don’t kill, people do” argument—claiming the problem was the perpetrators’ mental health not his book.

But he didn’t. He apologized for writing the book. In an interview he said, “I took a look at Rage and said to myself, if this book is acting as any sort of accelerant, if it’s having any effect on any of these kids at all, I don’t want anything to do with it.” Then he insightfully added, “Even talking about it makes me nervous.” King understands that attention is influence. He asked his publishers to pull Rage from publication and let it fall out of print shortly thereafter.

The challenge our society faces is balancing the need to not cause additional mayhem through known influence methods with the right of free speech. As is the case with all complicated issues, there are multiple values to consider here.

It’s time to ask if we should find a way to stifle such reports, limit the anguish, and disallow one form of speech, for the greater good.

One thing is for certain—those who write about, talk about, televise, and otherwise report on school shootings need to take their lead from Mr. King by examining their own motives and methods—given that when news outlets include certain details of a crime in their reports that act as a virtual workshop for would-be acolytes, they are likely to incite similar actions.

Surely, media specialists feel the tension between their own values and staying in business. And yet, they must realize that their goals to get more air time, sell more ad space, and earn more attention don’t justify the potential to create new pain and sorrow.

The obvious first step is to talk openly about all sides of the issue—including the latest research. Media outlets need to examine their own tactics, impact, and motives. It would be wonderful if the entire industry started regulating certain aspects of what is reported. This could only be accomplished through collaboration between competitive entities and so far, we haven’t seen any progress in this direction.

Perhaps it’s time for legislators to start their own dialogue. Perhaps we now have enough scientific evidence to suggest that it’s time to take action before more lives are lost. It’s time we matched responsibility with influence.

 

 

Violence and gender

Sage Publications is offering free access to journal articles up until April 30th. Here are two related to violence and gender:

A gendered assessment of the “threat of victimization”: Examining gender differences in fear of crime, perceived risk, avoidance, and defense behaviors  – by May, Rader, and Goodrum

Abstract

Rader has called for a change in how researchers study fear of crime, suggesting that fear of crime, perceptions of risk, and experiences with victimization are interrelated dimensions of the larger ‘‘threat of victimization’’ concept. In this study, the authors examine how each independent dimension affects additional theoretical dimensions of the ‘‘threat of victimization’’ and how these relationships vary by gender. Using data from residents of Kentucky, the authors estimate a series of multivariate linear and logistic regression models. The findings presented here suggest that gender differences do exist in the components of the threat of victimization and that many of the relationships in the Rader model are multifaceted, including the relationship between perceived risk, fear of crime, and avoidance and defensive behaviors. Implications of these findings for future research regarding predictors of the threat of victimization are discussed.

Interesting:

Women are much more likely to self-report fear of crime than men, even though they are less likely, according to official data, to experience victimization (with the exceptions of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment). This discrepancy is often called the ‘‘gender-fear paradox’’ because women’s fear of crime is incongruent with the reality of their criminal victimization (Ferraro, 1996). These elevated fear levels increase womens’ perceptions of risk and may cause women to be more likely to engage in constrained behaviors…

Gendered violence:  An analysis of the maquiladora murders  – by Katherine Pantaleo

Abstract

This study analyzes the social construction of a wave of female homicides surrounding the maquiladora plants in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Specifically, it explores the social construction ofthe murders by three different groups, the news media, human rights organizations, and academic researchers. The research begins with a content analysis of 35 narratives from newspapers,human rights reports, and academic journals. Sixteen of these narratives discuss North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in relation with the violence in Juarez. Analysis indicates that gender issues are intertwined with the trade agreement and concludes that the policy has aided in the disruption of the social fabric of Mexican society.

Results for Newspaper Articles

Overall, the newspaper articles do not include language such as femicide, maquiladora murder, violence toward women, and impunity nor do they suggest action or link the murders to anothersocial problem. None of the newspaper articles in the sample addressed the murders as femicidesor maquiladora murders. The perpetrators were mostly described as male serial killers. Four articlesaddressed the murders acts of violence against women, while three addressed the continuation of the murders, suggesting impunity. Finally, only one article discussed another social problem in conjunction with the maquiladora murders. A 1995 article from the Austin American Statesman described two accounts of serial killings. First, it mentioned the serial killings by a Cuban cult leader in 1989 and second it mentioned serial killings of eight teen girls in 1991. Both incidents occurred near Juarez. This particular article was the first to report the maquiladora murders.

 

The sample of newspaper narratives consisted of publications from as early as 1995 up until 2005. Even though the Austin American Statesman covered the murders in 1995, they were not yet known as the maquiladora murders, referred to as femicides, or portrayed as a major social problem. The continual coverage of the murders suggests that over the years, the maquiladora murders developed as an item of interest for the press. In addition, while the newspaper headlines focused mostly on the murders themselves, thewords chosen to describe themurders portrayed a sense of crisis. This is likely due to the nature of newspapers and their attempt to sensationalize stories. For example, some of thewords/phrases used are killing spree, unsolved murders, rape and murder, brutal Mexico killings, serial killings, women’s killings, Mexico’s murders, epidemic, and slayings. Despite the fact that the headlines focus most on the murders, the newspaper articles themselves mention the victims, perpetrators, and causes almost equally throughout the sample. Generally, the newspapers portray the murders as gendered sexual serial killings primarily perpetuated and caused by corruption of the criminal justice system. This is a significant contribution to defining the murders as a social problem. Specifically, the newspapers provide a visual aid that the public can use to define or construct the problem themselves. Newspaper claims-makers provide a framework for the development of a social problem, but it is up to the public to decide on the existence of a social problem. The human rights organizations and the peer-reviewed journal articles have a more specific target audience than do newspapers. This is one of the most significant differences between newspaper narratives and the narratives of human rights organizations and peer-reviewed journal articles that affects how they present their perspectives.

Reporting – and many other jobs or activities – while female

There’s an article in the New York Times today about “Reporting While Female” by Sabrina Tavernise. Indeed, women human rights defenders face the same risks as reporters:

But women reporters face another set of challenges. We are often harassed in ways that male colleagues are not. This is a hazard of the job that most of us have experienced and few of us talk about.

Last week, CBS News said that its reporter Lara Logan was assaulted by a crowd of men in Cairo. CBS News did not detail the circumstances, but the network’s statement — that she had suffered a “brutal and sustained sexual assault” — said enough.

And, not only do reporters and women human rights defenders face these challenges but also Peace Corps Volunteers and many other women working, volunteering or travelling abroad. I’ve travelled quite a bit and have been harassed by men – groped, cat-called, and looked at like a lion looks at their prey. But I’d also caution that these actions happen in the US too – men asking women to show their breasts or butts, men  touching women inappropriatedly, or – as many of us female bloggers face – crude and threatening sexist remarks on our posts.

But – getting back on topic – the NY Times ran another piece similar to the above referenced artice:

Why we need women in war zones 

Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

There is an added benefit. Ms. Logan is a minor celebrity, one of the highest-profile women to acknowledge being sexually assaulted. Although she has reported from the front lines, the lesson she is now giving young women is probably her most profound: It’s not your fault. And there’s no shame in telling it like it is.

Kanye West releases a preview of a video that eroticizes violence against women

This is bad. Really bad.

If that’s not enough, a behind-the-scenes clip of the video includes a semi-naked dead woman laying spread eagled on a table in front of Rick Ross as he eats a plate of raw meat. It is likely we can expect more brutal images in the full-length video.

The victims in this video are clearly women. Only women. And the men, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Jay-Z are far from bothered by the female corpses. They seem to enjoy being surrounded by lifeless female bodies, apparent victims of a serial killing.

Source: Adios, Barbie

Please consider signing the petition on Care2 Petitionsite

Selling and abusing children on the streets of America

This is another national shame…minors being prostituted.

What it’s like to be 17 and having sex for money

“Do you know how many times I got raped?” she says. “Do you know how many guns I got put to my temples? How many times I had knives to my throat? How many times I got beaten — with hangers, brooms, whips, and belts?”

What?! You mean it’s not a glamorous life like MTV and HBO would have us believe?

The 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking issued by Shared Hope International put Las Vegas at the top of ten cities it surveyed for the Department of Justice. Shared Hope estimated there were about four hundred young girls being trafficked in Vegas every year thanks in part to what it called a “hyper-sexualized entertainment industry.”

It’s not just an industry that hyper-sexualized, it’s the entire society – no small thanks to porn culture.

The city’s Yellow Pages directory boasts eighty-nine pages of listings for “escort services.” The section starts with a full-page ad for a “barely legal teen hotline” offering “hundreds of choices” of blonds and brunettes. The next page offers “college teens” and “naughty school girls,” and promotions for “teen cheerleaders” and other youthful offerings go on for dozens of pages. Nevada, after all, is a notorious tourist destination because it offers legal prostitution, with close to forty licensed bordellos. It all helps lend what Shared Hope calls a “veneer of legitimacy” to illegal sexual activity with youth.

All I can say is, Ewwwww. A pedophile’s paradise…right here in America.

PETA? How about People for the Ethical Treatment of Women?!

It’s often been said that people get more upset over animal abuse than wife abuse.  People point out that there are more animal shelters in the US than domestic violence shelters. The National Network to End Domestic Violence, in fact, conducts an annual survey and finds that women & children are often turned away from shelters due to lack of space. As further proof, folks think Vicks, the football player charged with animal abuse, got more punishment than athletes that abuse their wives or girlfriends.

And then I saw this article in Salon this morning. I was sickened. There was just a vigil in DC over a police officer who shot a dog. Where is the outrage – the vigil – the protest – over gender-based violence being performed on this teen? over sharing this grotesque human right violation on Facebook? over this writer excusing and providing rationalization for the harmful conduct? This is disgusting – the act, the audience, the excuse.

Teens share photos of assault on Facebook

The horrific gang rape of a 16-year-old girl is roiling Canada. It’s suspected that she was drugged at a rave on Saturday and then assaulted in a nearby field by a group of males. Truly adding insult to injury: The attack in Pitt Meadows, B.C., was photographed and videotaped — and the evidence was then published on Facebook by one of her alleged attackers. The photos and video “have been viewed, shared, saved and reposted numerous times,” an official told the Vancouver Sun. The images are spreading like wildfire, and it’s impossible to contain.

And-

it isn’t hard to understand how even a nonsociopathic teenager might opt to view a photo of a girl’s rape, or even send it along to a friend. This is so often how we share things, good and bad; we hit “forward” or “re-tweet” or “like,” etc. Technology offers us a sense of privacy, and detachment, even as we’re sharing these things with the entire Web. The online mentality is one of entitlement and total freedom, no one has ownership over anything (just ask record label execs). I would venture to say that it hasn’t even occurred to many of the kids — the ones who are not, you know, patently evil — that they are violating this girl themselves.